Sunday , May 19 2024

UK returns looted Ghana artefacts after 150 years


LONDON/ ACCRA: The United Kingdom has returned 32 gold and silver treasures stolen from the Asante Kingdom more than 150 years ago in what is today’s Ghana on a six-year loan, Ghanaian negotiators have said.

The artefacts, comprising 15 items from the British Museum and 17 from the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), were looted from the court of the Asante king during the turbulent 19th-century clashes between the British and the Asante people.

Ghanaian authorities have for years tried to reclaim gold treasures looted by British soldiers from the Asante kingdom, which is also known as Ashanti.

The accord will see the relics, including gold and silver regalia associated with the Asante Royal Court, showcased at the Manhyia Palace Museum in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region, as part of the yearlong celebration honoring the king’s silver jubilee.

Ivor Agyeman-Duah, the chief negotiator, confirmed the items’ return, telling media on Saturday that they were given to the palace on loan.

It comes as international momentum and campaigning has grown for museums and institutions to have African artefacts returned from former colonial powers.

Nigeria is also negotiating the return of thousands of 16th to 18th-century metal objects looted from the ancient kingdom of Benin and currently held by museums and art collectors across the United States and Europe.

Two years ago, Benin received two dozen treasures and artworks stolen in 1892 by French colonial forces during the sacking of the royal Palace of Abomey.

“These cherished artefacts, which hold immense cultural and spiritual significance for the Ashanti people, are here as part of a loan agreement for an initial three years and renewable for another three,” Agyeman-Duah said.

“It marks a significant moment in our efforts to reclaim and preserve our heritage, fostering a renewed sense of pride and connection to our rich history,” he added, noting that the exhibition will be held from May 1.

The returned items include a 300-year-old Mponponso sword used in swearing-in ceremonies.

A gold peace pipe and gold discs worn by officials responsible for cleansing the king’s soul are also among 17 items the V&A plans to lend to the Ghanaian museum.

Objects selected from the British Museum consist mainly of royal regalia looted from the palace in Kumasi during the Anglo-Asante wars.

The items will be loaned under two separate three-year agreements.

The British Museum, the world’s oldest national public museum, has come under mounting pressure following the theft of more than 2,000 items earlier this month.

With police investigations under way, George Osborne, the chair of the British Museum, said more could have been done to prevent the thefts, which resulted in the resignation of the museum’s director Hartwig Fischer while some items have subsequently been recovered, the thefts have raised questions about the safeguarding of objects at the museum and reignited discussions about the repatriation and restitution of objects housed there.

A spokesperson from the museum said, “The British Museum fully acknowledges the complex histories of objects within the collection and recognizes our responsibility to engage audiences about their interconnected history in the modern world.”

Founded in 1753, the museum first opened its doors in 1759. Located in central London, the British Museum, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions with four million visitors in 2022, offers free admission to its permanent collection.

The British Museum received £47.8 million ($61m) in revenue and a £20 million ($25m) capital grant in aid from the governmental Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport during the 2022/23 financial year. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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